There is something really special about feeling the warm glow of the sun – it’s comforting, invigorating and, as more and more studies are showing, it may have a profound effect on our sleep patterns, physiology and quality of life.
In an office environment, it has been shown that employees with better access to daylight sleep longer and better, are more alert, happier in their work, healthier and more productive than their fellow employees. In fact, daylight is considered so beneficial that many European countries require that office workers be within 8 metres of a window for the majority of their working day.
When talking about factory, manufacturing or line workers, assessing productivity can be relatively straightforward – a case of measuring input versus output. However, the productivity of office workers is a different challenge altogether. That’s why many studies into office productivity instead focus on related metrics like absenteeism, task performance, behavioural assessments and individual changes in environment.
Multiple studies since the 1920s have put forward the same findings time and time again.
Studies undertaken by several organisations in the United States all found that better daylight exposure in the workplace helped increase employee attention, alertness and productivity by as much as 15% – even with regards to monotonous or boring work.
An independent survey of office workers (entitled “The Significance of Sunshine and View for Office Workers” by TG Markus) also found that those sitting nearest windows were not only more productive but also more content and less stressed. 73% of those surveyed considered windows and natural light “extremely important”.
Natural light is essential to human circadian regulation. Lack of daylight can severely disturb our body rhythms, causing health problems such as sleep deprivation, stress and even obesity.
One study showed employees with workstations near windows received roughly 173% more daylight during office hours and slept an average of 46 minutes longer, when compared to employees with workstations further into the interior of the building.
Further to this, a multi-year, multi-site medical study, by the Lighting Research Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, found that employees with limited access to daylight in their workplace reported poorer health, poorer overall sleep quality and were less physically active than their colleagues.
It is well documented that lighting controls in combination with effective daylighting design in commercial buildings can save up to 50% on electric lighting costs. With electric lighting also accounting for around 19% of total global energy costs, better daylight design in the workplace should be considered essential regardless of the mental and physical benefits.
However, there is also a behavioural change, beyond productivity, strongly associated with effectively day-lit spaces. Many workers in these spaces have been shown to refrain from using electric lighting for most tasks, while also spending 15% longer at their workstations than workers in poorer day-lit areas.
Considering up to 92% of a business’s operating costs go to paying for salaries and employee benefits, even a small increase in productivity can be a make a huge difference to the bottom line. As well as reducing energy usage, better daylighting can play a significant role in making employees more productive, and helping them feel happier, healthier and less stressed.
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